Dear reader,

Today, we want to find out more about the 3,000 of you in our Jommunity! The most important thing you can do for us, for all of us collectively, is to take 10 minutes to fill out our first-ever reader survey.

Why? The better we understand your preferences, the better we can shape the product for you. That’s it. I actually know very little about Jom’s readership, aside from 33 Indian cousins whom my mum forced to join.

To nudge you a teeny bit more, the first five respondents will each receive a Jom tote bag for free (pictured above), which has just been printed, and will only be going on sale in a few months. And we’ll also offer the same to respondents #100, #200, #300, #400 and #500. Be the first to carry it.

Though the survey is anonymous, if you want a tote bag, you’ll have to leave us your e-mail address. It’s an optional question, purely for the prize. We won’t save e-mail addresses along with the survey data.

Oh no, not another tote bag, some of you might whine. I totally hear you. It’s funny how some of our team’s hardest decisions have been on non-editorial issues. In “What’s in a logo?”, we wrote about how much time we spent deliberating over the terminal stroke in our Jawi-inspired logo.

Similarly, when it came to “resource conservation” versus “branding merch for a new long-form with visions of grandeur”, each of our Jomrades felt a deep tension. I was Team No Tote for a long time, but I’ve come around, more so after seeing the finished product, whose production was led by Jean, our head of research. It’s classy, has some nice pockets on the outside, and is now my tote of choice.

Fill up the survey now to stand a chance to win one.

This week’s essay, “Why did Singapore support the US-led invasion of Iraq?”, examines our decision, 20 years ago this week, to support an illegal, ill-fated invasion of a much smaller country by a much bigger one. Realists would argue that it was in Singapore’s interests to do so. We still live with its consequences, including jihadis like ISIS. Though other democracies have publicly interrogated their actions 20 years ago, Singapore never has. We argue that it’s important to democratise foreign policy discourse in the country.

Though some in the Jom team have experience writing about foreign affairs, we’re very grateful for the support of some actual experts in the field (who are Jom subscribers too). As we slowly grow our publication, and venture into new areas, this kind of reader input is invaluable.

Finally, the research for this piece offered me a chance to look closely at the bumper, two-volume memoirs of Goh Chok Tong, Singapore’s then prime minister. By doing so one realises how reticent our politicians are on important matters. Not once does he discuss the decision to invade Iraq. Nevermind from the perspective of public interest, even in literary and commercial terms he should have realised the value of doing so. Readers of political biographies and memoirs want to get into the weeds on these sorts of complex policy decisions.

Not golf. Goh talks about golf with Bush, golf with Najib, golf with Suharto, golf with Burmese generals, golf with Thai generals, golf in Augusta, golf in Bali, golf in South Africa. “For a leader of a small country to invite the US President to go and play golf at midnight is totally unheard of in the world!” he beams, in reference to a game with Clinton in Brunei.

The word “Iraq” appears just once in his memoirs, in a footnote about ISIS. The word “golf” appears 71 times.

We hope our essay can inspire more public discourse about these important foreign policy decisions, including from people like Goh. He did not respond to our request for comment. Perhaps he was busy on the green.

Jom main,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

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